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NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe – Rob Esdaile – Cacophony or Harmony: Which Future?

The latest NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe – Rob Esdaile – Cacophony or Harmony: Which Future? can be found by clicking the link below

NJPN Comment By Rob Esdaille

NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe by Freda Lambert – Raising awareness of domestic abuse

The latest NJPN comment in the Catholic Universe, titled Raising awareness of domestic abuse , by Freda Lambert is available to read by clicking on the link below.

 

NJPN Comment by Freda Lambert

NJPN eBulletin – 9th November 2020

The latest NJPN eBulletin dated 9th November 2020 is available to download and read by clicking here.

ARE WE ALL SEEKING SANCTUARY ?

Just as new lock-downs are being announced, it feels as if many of us are having to find ways of living with the Covid pandemic. These often involve making difficult sacrifices and discovering ways of dealing with so many types of loss and bereavement. Just as our lives are turned upside down we might find a glimpse of what it feels like to suffer the losses and traumas faced by refugees seeking sanctuary. And for many refugees, particularly those awaiting decisions on their claim, life is particularly challenging.

Read more here:

2019 Annual Financial Reports

The National Justice and Peace Network’s annual financial report for 2019 can be found by clicking here.

NPN eBulletin 11th October 2020

Fratelli Tutti, Climate issues,
and events happening virtually. Please join in!
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“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “– Acts 20:35

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Dear Friends,

Thanks to our friends at the Birmingham Justice and Peace Commission, who put on a very interesting virtual Assembly last week on the Climate Emergency. If you missed the talks/service, or want to re-watch any of them, they are available on YouTube by following this link. 
Also, the next NJPN AGM and Networking Day will take place on the 21st November. You can book via Eventbrite here.
The main item being commented on at the moment is Pope Francis’ new Encyclical – Fratelli Tutti, which can be pre-ordered through CTS here. Everyone has an opinion on the publication, so there are a selection of articles below. 
There is also the usual mix of justice and peace issues which we hope that, not only will you find interesting, but thought-provoking too.
Don’t forget, if you have something you particularly want shared in this e-bulletin, send it to ebulletin@justice-and-peace.org.uk.  
The next edition will be out in two weeks time,
God bless you all,
Editor

Please note we are still using a temporary postal address due to the closure of the Eccleston Square office:

Geoff Thompson, NJPN, c/o CAFOD Lancaster Volunteer Centre, St Walburge’s Centre, St Walburge’s Gardens, Preston PR2 2QJ.
 

You can still use the same phone number.

See below for: – 

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E-Bulletin Contents: –

***ACTION OF THE WEEK***

News and Comment

  1. Fratelli Tutti – comments on Pope Francis’ new Encyclical
  2. Connecting Social Action work with the Church’s message
  3. NJPN columns in the Universe
  4. Is it ethical to accept medical treatments derived from abortions?
  5. #BlackLivesMatter
  6. Christian CND AGM 2020
  7. Praying for Myanmar
  8. Launch of Reset the Debt 
  9. Environmental Issues
  10. Update on KitKat
Newsletters
   
    11. Lancaster Faith and Justice October 2020
   
12. News from Quaker Peace and Social Action  
   13. ECCR September 2020
  

Events

    14. Webinar: the Corporate Takeover of Health
    15. Regional Workshops for climate action
    16. Build Back Better HOW? (Compass)
    17. Re-Imagining the Promised Land (Green Christian)
    18. Asylum Explained (JRS)
    19. Radical Presence (Green Christian)
    20. UN Solidarity with the Palestine People (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
    21. Quaker Activist Gathering
    22. Pax Christi Advent Service

    Actions

    23. Reset the Debt
    24. Save Family Reunion
   
25. Steps to Freedom Challenge
    26. Biofuelwatch: Protect Forests
    27. Yemen: Email your MP

    

E-Petitions

   28. RSPB – Revive our World
   29. Stop people being evicted
   .   

The Last Word

 30. Art as Resistance

 

***ACTION OF THE WEEK***
 
Challenge Poverty Week 12 – 18 October 2020

Challenge Poverty Week is on in England and Wales for the first time.

On their website, you’ll find details of events, useful resources, and various suggestions for getting involved. But you may be wondering: where did the idea come from?
In essence, it’s happening here this year because we have seen how successful and powerful it has been elsewhere. The Poverty Alliance in Scotland has been running its Challenge Poverty Week for the past seven years, and it has grown to become a powerful fixture in the calendar.
Community groups, charities, councils and small groups of individuals have organised events, held decision-makers to account, and ensured that ending poverty is a national priority. Last year, it generated national media attention and led to questions and debates in the Holyrood and Westminster Parliaments, and led to people with personal experience of poverty sharing their experiences and ideas in a safe and effective way.
Last year, we also took part in End Hunger Week, and were heartened by the number of people groups who wanted to take a stand and call for an end to poverty. We wanted to build on that resolve and enthusiasm this year.

We know there is a huge appetite for change across England and Wales as well, and we know that by harnessing the wisdom, ingenuity and determination of people across the anti-poverty movement, we can make change happen.
 

 

NEWS AND COMMENT

1. Fratelli Tutti – positive comments from around the world

Much has been made of Pope Francis’ new Encyclical, which was launched last weekend. Described by Austen Ivereigh as an ‘Invitation to rediscover a sense of human togetherness’ – something that very much seems to be missing in much of today’s society, and indeed the insular world that we seem to be comfortable in here in the UK. Listen to the interview with Austen Ivereigh, through the Mill Hill Missionaries page here.

The African Bishops have dubbed it ‘A call to end Africa’s ethnic divisions,’ as well as being a call ‘to work assiduously for religious freedom.’ To read their full statement on the 8th October, go to the  aciaafrica website.

Christine Allen from CAFOD has described it as ‘A message for all people’ – in which Pope Francis praises the togetherness shown by society during the Covid-19 crisis. 
But the Pope warns that a fragmented global response risks creating a “setback” on the journey to building a fairer world.
Pope Francis argues in the encyclical that politics should be “re-evaluated” to focus on serving the common good, not economic interests. The full CAFOD statement is available here. 

Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salem is the first ever Muslim to present a papal encyclical. Advisor to the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, he is now secretary general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity set up to promote that historic document which the two religious leaders signed in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019. In an interview with America, after speaking at the Vatican presentation of the pope’s new encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” on 4th October, he said “I was really very moved when I first read Pope Francis’ message. I felt that the pope is representing me in every word, in everything he said,”
He views the pope’s encyclical as “the guide to putting into practice the Human Fraternity document,” and he considers the latter as “the constitution” for fostering Christian-Muslim relations. “I see both documents as a very strong barrier against hatred and racism, and evil in general,” he said. “The real Islam and the real Christianity is against intolerance and these negative forces,” he stated. Go to the America webpage to read the full article.

Finally, the Catholic Women’s Council, a coalition of Catholic women’s networks from around the world, have sent an open letter to Pope Francis, very politely asking for him to reconsider the title of the Encyclical – Fratelli Tutti, in literal translation means ‘Brothers All.’ Read what they have to say through Independent Catholic News.

2. The Cross and Shame:
                 speaking of atonement to a shame-filled society – a booklet.

Rebecca Winfrey has produced a 27 page booklet, title as above. It is an example of the most helpful theology: brief, accessible, reflective and mission-oriented. A book which helps us connect the truth of the gospel to practical action. An ideal guide for anyone involved in a project team as to how gospel truth can be integrated alongside compassionate practice. A review of the booklet is available on the Grace + Truth webpage.

3. Latest NJPN Columns in The Universe

2 October – My escape to a simpler, sustainable life.
Dr Andrew Neil Rollinson is an independent energy engineer and a member of the NJPN Environment Group

I’m escaping. My wife and I have bought an old croft in the Highlands of Scotland. It didn’t cost much, though it has five acres of land, no mains electricity or water, and there is no home, only a ruinous stone shell which we intend to renovate.
What the croft does have is that wildlife is plentiful. Animals that were once abundant in England such as barn owls, hedgehogs, voles, field mice, deer, bees and a rich variety of birds and butterflies, share the space. It also has a small, very friendly community of people.
I grew up in Yorkshire and lived for 50 years in the same town. It was once a collection of farms but through the years I have seen the local authority ride roughshod over the environment and licence an urban sprawl assault. Now, in all directions, cheaply built housing estates stand on the former farms, trees have been cut down without question, and all roads are gridlocked from 7am to 8pm. As a consequence, hedgehogs have been wiped out and the only birds remaining are pigeons and magpies. Nature has been removed, and it has taken with it people’s serenity and sanity.
Feeling the pain of this destruction I have been constantly active: objecting to planning applications, writing letters to the newspaper, and even demonstrating outside the Town Hall with a load hailer. I saw it as my Christian duty to be Jesus’ hands on earth, and because all it takes for evil to succeed is that good people do nothing.
However, last month my wife and I visited our croft and set about making preparations for a permanent move. There I laid foundations for a tool store and started building a caravan canopy. And while doing this I thought, ‘I’m a hypocrite!’ Here I am digging holes, clearing the land and displacing wildlife. I’m doing exactly the same as the property developers in England. It is the thin end of of the same wedge.
But I concluded that there is a difference. That difference is ‘greed’. Unlike the property developer/council partnership I intend to live simply and in harmony with nature, planting hedgerows and wildflowers, taking water from my well, growing my own organic vegetables, having just the bare minimum to subsist. In short, I will cherish and care for ‘our common home’ according to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’.

9 October – Just seeking sanctuary
Phil Kerton is Co-Director of Seeking Sanctuary. He is also a former Chair of NJPN and remains a consultant to its Executive.

We’ve recently seen the Church’s Day for Migrants and Refugees, with statements from Rome, and from Bishop Paul McAleenan, our bishops’ spokesman on the issue. He visited Dover on 15 September to meet volunteers working alongside migrants arriving from France in small boats and passing briefly through the port. ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ was delighted to see local people meeting him and to see a BBC TV team interview him for a ‘Songs of Praise’. Bishop Paul was filmed on the Dover seafront, by the Migrants’ plaque, scheduled for transmission on 11 October.
But what has been happening in Calais?
Charity volunteers have been prohibited from making free distributions of food and water in central Calais. With repeated clearance of shelters and confiscation of property every few days, some people are now sleeping at places remote from the officially-sanctioned food distributions and to reach these many must walk for several hours each way (if they are strong enough). The human rights ombudsman reports that preventing the charitable provision of essential supplies violates several human and constitutional rights.
However, that opinion has failed to convince the courts that the ban should be overturned. Secours Catholique and others have protested about the situation and British members of the cross-Channel network ‘People not Walls’ organised an on-line petition in support. This was delivered by hand on 25 September to the French Embassy in London, but the Home Office refused to take delivery of their copy unless a solicitor was in attendance – a hitherto unknown requirement. The small delivery group was hardly threatening, being made up of two women, a monk and two Catholic priests! With nearly 500 signatures now delivery is being rearranged.
As September drew to a close, Calais saw the largest eviction since the elimination of the infamous ‘Jungle’ in 2016. Around 800 migrants were taken away in coaches early one morning to ‘places of shelter’ elsewhere, 38% of them in the north of France and the majority further away. Almost all will probably make their way back to Calais within a few weeks, with their fear and distrust of French officials further confirmed.
‘Seeking Sanctuary’ finds no joy in reporting such grim news from France, but we are buoyed by support from generous individuals, churches and community groups whose actions continue to contradict the claim that a hostile environment prevails in the UK.

Our thanks go to our friends at The Universe for supporting us. If you would like to take out a subscription to their newspaper and support them in return, please follow this link.

4. Is it ethical to accept medical treatments derived from abortions?

I was surprised this week to receive an email from our Parish Priest, with information contained within from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales issuing a statement about vaccines derived from foetal cell lines. The full statement is available here to read. What I was more surprised at is that in ‘grave cases’ a vaccine derived from aborted foetuses in the past may be used in good conscience. 
The upshot of the report is that the Department for Health and Social Care recognises that the source of the vaccine raises moral concerns and gives assurance that no new human foetal tissue will be used in making the vaccine, although cell-lines developed from the remains of aborted foetuses in the past are being researched by some institutions. The Department has also given assurances that any vaccine which is developed will be safe and effective.
Interestingly, America Magazine have also run a similar article, as during Donald Trump’s stay in hospital with Covid-19 he was treated with two remedies which were derived with cells from an aborted foetus in 1972.
From my personal perspective this makes for very uncomfortable reading. We can only hope and pray that other options will become available given time.

5. Articles around race issues

Why I’m no longer talking to Black people about race
                                          (the way I used to)

An Open Letter to other White people in the UK…
Adrian Lock, Founding Director of Deeper Leaders, has written a brilliant piece in Grace + Truth giving a synopsis of events from George Floyd’s death on the 25th May, and his thoughts about the depths of ignorance in white psyches, and the depth of pain prevalent in black psyches. It gives opinions from both sides, both black and white. Very much worthy of a read. Find it here.

Webinars
Also, the World Council of Churches have a series of Webinars entitled ‘Theological Reflections on Hate Speech and Whiteness.’ These will happen between 19th October and 23rd October on YouTube. For more information visit their website here.

Columbans launch schools competition – ‘End Racism’
Ellen Teague writes:-
‘Let’s Create A World Without Racism’ is the theme for a schools’ competition launched by the Columban Missionary Society. The objective is to encourage students 14-18 years old to use their media skills to look at a topical issue which is relevant to society today and resonates with Catholic Social Teaching.
The competition is open for writing and image entries until 20 February 2021 and winners will be announced on 15 March 2021. Two separate competitions will be judged, one for students in Ireland and one in Britain and high-profile judges from the world of journalism have been secured.
In June this year, after the death of George Floyd in the United States, Pope Francis said, “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” Young people in Ireland and Britain have been out on the streets calling for an end of racism. This is a chance to engage with an issue that addresses equality, justice, inclusion and also draws on faith and personal experience.
Details of the competition are on the poster below. Please give the details to any young people you feel would want to be involved.

6. Report on the Christian CND AGM 2020

The Christian CND AGM took place on Zoom on Saturday 3 October with 40 members and supporters gathering to hear the latest developments in their campaign. Martin Newall from Christian Climate Action joined them and spoke about the work of CCA and his own journey into activism. Workshops also took place where ideas were exchanged and plans for the next year started to take shape.
Details of the AGM are available here.

7. Prayers asked for Myanmar

A 22-month conflict between Myanmar’s military and the rebel Arakan Army has been raging in Rakhine and Chin states. More than 90,000 people have been displaced due to the renewed conflict in Rakhine, which has spilled into neighbouring Chin state, home to many Christians, mostly ethnic Chin. The Arakan Army is a largely Buddhist militia demanding greater autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine people. Rakhine state is also experiencing a separate conflict that has seen more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya, mostly Muslim, flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 due to military offensives. For more details go to the Vatican News page here.

8. Launch of Reset the Debt

The Joint Public Issues Team, in partnership with Church Action on Poverty have launched a new campaign, Reset the Debt.
During lockdown, millions of families in the UK have been forced to borrow money to make ends meet – with the biggest increase in debt amongst the poorest households.
Six million people have fallen behind on rent, council tax and other household bills because of Covid-19.
Almost one in five households borrowed money to buy food or other essentials in July.
This is an urgent problem that demands a solution. So we’re proposing that the Chancellor creates a Jubilee Fund, that will provide grants to pay off and cancel unavoidable debts accrued by households during the lockdown period. We believe that a Jubilee would allow relationships to be reset, communities to be re-balanced, and people’s dignity to be restored.
For more details and to get involved please visit the website here.

9. Environmental Issues

Community say no to coal in Cumbria
Friends of the Earth report:-
The government has just refused planning permission for a controversial opencast coal mine in Druridge Bay, thanks to the tireless work of local campaigners.
But now West Cumbria could soon be home to the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years. Not if 16-year old campaigner Isabella and her Climate Action group get their way though.
To read the full report, go to Friends of the Earth here.

Which future do we want to plan for?
Just by chance, after attending the Birmingham Climate Emergency Assembly last week (links to the talks in the Editorial at the top of the page) I received from the RSPB a regular update, including an article entitled ‘Which future do we want to plan for?’ The article was written back in August, when the Government launched their White Paper entitled ‘Planning for the Future.’ The RSPB have assessed the Paper and say that it raises more questions than it answers.
They state ‘The reforms contain real risks for nature and communities.  We need clarity from government about how these dramatic proposals could be consistent with nature’s recovery (an issue that the White Paper completely fails to address).   
The proposals are open to public consultation for 12 weeks until 29 October, and we will be asking our supporters to include their voice in that over the coming months. ‘ 
If you haven’t done so already, please look at the White Paper, and read the article on the RSPB website here.

10. Nestle’s Kit Kat will stop being Fairtrade

Back in June, we shared the deeply disappointing news KitKat bars will cease to use Fairtrade ingredients. Since then, you may have seen, or even been part of, the huge public reaction against this decision.
Over a quarter of a million people signed this petition, started by Joanna Pollard a Fairtrade campaigner in Yorkshire, and supported by a range of organisations, asking Nestlé to think again.
And MPs have spoken out too, with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fairtrade condemning this decision strongly, after grilling Nestlé representatives in Parliament.
Despite this public response, Nestlé have not changed their decision and KitKat ceased to be Fairtrade from 1st October.
To read more on the impact of the decision, visit the Fairtrade Foundation website here.

NEWSLETTERS

11. Lancaster Faith and Justice October 2020

The latest newsletter is available to download here.

12. News from Quaker Peace and Social Witness

Quake! the Quaker Peace and Social Witness newsletter can be found here. It is well worth checking out the Quaker website for details on the work that they are doing to build a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. More information about their work is available here.

13. ECCR September 2020 Newsletter

Another interesting newsletter from the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. Find it here.

EVENTS ( in chronological order)
 

14. Global Justice Now Webinar: the corporate takeover of health
                                                               15 October from 7pm

How can we stop corporations controlling healthcare and pharmaceuticals around the world? What is our vision of global health justice and how do take action to bring hope for a healthcare systems around the world that puts people before profit? For more details and to register for this Webinar,
click here.

15. Regional Workshops for Climate Action –  19 October – 4 November

Quakers in Britain are working with Faith for the Climate and Christian Aid to deliver a series of interfaith regional online workshops. The workshops are designed to help faith communities connect, skill up and take action against climate breakdown. If you are from the Leeds, Leicester or Manchester areas and would like to participate, find out more and sign up  here.

16. #BuildBackBetterHOW –  22 – 31 October

A series of online talks, seminars, and discussions spread over 10 days from the 22nd to the 31st October. These talks will dig deep into what we really mean why we say “Build Back Better”, and how we’re going to make it happen. More details and sign up here.

17. Re-Imagining the Promised Land –  23-25 October

 

Covid-19 has brought dark times, yet we have seen positives emerge through lockdown: breathing space for nature, renewed community spirit, a focus on the local.
More details from Green Christian.

18. Accompaniment in Action: Asylum Explained – 28 October

Join us for the second of our Accompaniment in Action events where we will be joined by Michael Tarnoky, our Senior Legal Officer, and Bernadette Smith, our Legal Caseworker, as we discuss the asylum system here in the UK. We will talk about how the system works, some of the difficulties our friends face when going through it and have the opportunity for you to ask the questions you might have about the process of seeking safety in the UK. Details from JRS here.

19. Radical Presence – Course running from 1 November

As the world wrestles with Covid-19 in the coming months, let’s stay alert with faith, hope and love – and create a more sustainable, just and compassionate world than we knew before.
Radical Presence is an online series of purposeful conversations with new friends and fellow travellers.  In seven sessions we draw on the Bible, science, and a selection of the best journalism and theological reflection on the pandemic. Get involved here.

20. Dynamic Week of Action – 25 November – 2 December

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign are announcing a dynamic week of action to mark the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Join them from the 25th November – 2nd December for one or more of their events! More details here.

21. Quaker Activist Gathering (online event) – 28 November

As a community of Friends and the Quaker-curious, we will gather online for a spacious, intergenerational, restorative and invigorating day together. There will be opportunities to:
share and hear stories of witness in these trying times, find connection, peace and inspiration with each other ground deeper into the spiritual foundations of our witness. Save the date – more details to follow nearer the time.

22. Pax Christi Advent Peace Service – 7 December
       
This year our Advent Peace service will be an online event. Full details will follow soon but there will be music, song, powerful readings, messages for Palestine, and a ‘virtual’ marketplace afterwards. We are grateful that Julie McCann will be coordinating the music for us. Click here.

ACTIONS/APPEALS

23. Reset the Debt

As mentioned above, Reset the Debt has been launched asking for a fresh start for families swept into debt by Covid-19. Take action and email your MP here.

24. Save Family Reunion

Safe Passage writes: – ‘We’ve now heard that the vote in the House of Commons on refugee family reunion will take place the week of October 19th.
If you’ve not had the chance yet, please write to your MP as soon as possible and let them know you want them to vote for the Amendment to save family reunion.’ Follow the link here.

25. Anti-Slavery Steps to Freedom Challenge

Mark Anti-Slavery Day this October by taking part in our Steps to Freedom challenge.
Steps to Freedom is a virtual challenge where you set your own fitness goal, track your progress and ask your friends and family to sponsor you.
Whether you’re already rocking a lockdown workout, want to jump start your fitness goals or are finally planning to go on one of those walks you talked about during lockdown, your steps can help change the lives of people living in slavery. For more details and to sign up go to their website.

26. Protect forests from tree-burning power stations

Biofuelwatch are asking people to contact their MP and ask them to pledge to protect forests from tree-burning power stations. For more information and to join in click here.

27. Yemen: Email your MP

“After years of documenting the terrible toll of this war, no one can say ‘we did not know what was happening in Yemen’. Accountability is key to ensure that justice is served to the people of Yemen and to humanity.”
This is the message for the world today at the UN Human Rights Council, as the ‘Group of Experts on Yemen’ makes its report. Can you email your MP today, to make sure the UK government gets this vital message?

 

E-PETITIONS

28. RSPB: Revive our World

Nature is in crisis. In 2020 the importance of having nature in our lives has never been clearer, but the crisis facing nature is huge. So huge that our wellbeing, our economic future, and our very survival depend on the choices we make now. If everyone works together, we have time to turn it around. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone. We need politicians with the power to make big changes to help us build the world we want to live in. Join with RSPB members and sign the petition.
 

29. Urgently stop people being evicted
38 Degrees are asking you to sign a petition to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State for Housing) asking them to help renters who are facing eviction by providing emergency funding to help clear coronavirus arrears. Further details available here.

 30.  THE LAST WORD

October 2020 Art As Resistance Monthly Spotlight: Sameer Qumsiyeh
Israel’s project of colonisation seeks not just to colonise the land but to erase the memory of Palestinian presence, history and culture. Those of you who have visited Palestine will have seen written many times, especially on the apartheid wall that snakes its way though East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the slogan ‘to exist is to resist’.
In solidarity with the Palestinian artists keeping culture alive, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign introduces PSC’s ‘Art As Resistance’ Monthly Spotlight, celebrating Palestinian voices and bringing Palestinian art to the forefront.  
Sameer Qumsiyeh is a filmmaker from Bethlehem who – despite the walls surrounding his life – creates personal films with a global vision. Check out his film ‘Quarantine, Curfew and Videotapes,’ his way of revisiting a traumatic past in an attempt for a reconciliation. 
To support Sameer, you can also like his page on Facebook.
 

NEWS LINKS

Independent Catholic News
Find Justice and Peace stories at:
http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/justice-peace-environment
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Find news stories at www.catholicnews.org.uk
 
Latest Zenit Headlines here
 
Vatican Radio homepage: https://www.vaticannews.va/en.html
 
World Council of Churches
https://www.oikoumene.org/en/
 
UK Parliament News
https://www.parliament.uk/business/news/
 
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NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe: Barbara Kentish – Compassion can go further

“I so happy to see you!” My Iranian friend Mary gave me a big hug when we met recently near Victoria in central London.

We had met for the first time at a migrants’ hostel in Calais in 2019.

She had arrived in the UK on a small boat with her husband and family in August this year, after three attempts at crossing.

“What was it like?” I asked, curiously.

“Cold, wet, dark. Four hours!” she exclaimed in her limited English.

“My eyes closed whole time – frightened!”

I never asked Mary why they fled Iran where she was an accountant for her husband’s building firm. Their Christian faith might be a clue: Iran is known for

its intolerance of minorities. They are in a hotel near Victoria Station awaiting housing, to begin rebuilding their lives. 90-plus London hotels accommodate asylum seekers, placed there by the government, alongside the ‘regular’

homeless, during the pandemic.

With boat crossings continuing, no wonder disused army barracks are now being used as well. Another Iranian ‘boat’ family I know, 20-year-old Michael and his mother, are rehoused in a Liverpool suburb, where he hopes to resume

science studies at a college. He’s confident, cycling around the city, but when visiting, I wonder how his mother will cope, with little English and health problems, in an 11th floor flat. Miraculously, life has moved on positively since

Calais for both these families. I don’t believe the myth of Britain as a ‘crowded island which can’t take any more’. Of the 70 million refugees across the world, the UK accepted under 20,000 last year. Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda ranked highest of the hosting countries – the UK twentieth. All countries must accept some responsibility, and factor it into the economy like other forms of need.

But life is tough right now. We all know people who are struggling to survive Covid-19 and the economy.

How can we stretch our compassion further? Cardinal Nichols recently cited the community sponsorship scheme, where we welcomed 20,000 Syrian families. The campaign group, Safe Passage, has received over 1,000 pledges

from local authorities to foster unaccompanied migrant minors. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Pope Francis declared: “Each migrant has a name, a face and a story”.

We can’t personally, or even nationally, welcome 70 million. But we can each welcome a Mary or a Michael, and consider cutting the national cake into fairer shares!

 

Barbara Kentish is a member of Westminster Justice and Peace and co ordinator of ‘People not Walls’.

NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe: Bruce Kent – My Tatty Booklets

Two smallish books have been on my desk for about 30 years. Every year they get a bit tattier because of frequent use. With its pale blue cover, one is the 90-page copy of the United Nations Charter. The other is a translation of the Psalms.

At a time of global chaos and of political egos clearly on display we need some centuries-old inspiration and sanity to keep us going.

In this, the Psalms are great help. How they all got put together, I have little idea. But their collective wisdom can steady our nerves centuries later.

One great thing about so many Psalms is that they were created by people with the same animosities as we have. Enemies crop up frequently and God is frequently asked to deal with them.

 

Psalm 82 is typical: ‘Drive them away with your tempest; and fill them with terrors at your storm.’

 

So, the Psalms were not put together by a mixture of Mother Theresa and St Francis. Their authors were not unlike most of us – though we are usually a bit more delicate in talking about those we don’t like. But that is a side issue.

The main message coming from them is that of the wonder and glory of God and how we live in God’s hands, the Creator who made all things possible.

My favourite is Psalm 8:

 ‘How great is your name Oh Lord our God through all the earth! …What are we that you should keep us in mind, men and women that you care for us?’

It’s clear from the Psalms that God gives priority to the poorest:

‘He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.’ (Psalm 106)

 

On 24 October we celebrate United Nations Day. The vision of the UN Charter has something in common with our Psalms. After all, the preamble to the charter starts with the hope of eliminating ‘the scourge of war’. Both present a breath-taking vision for how humanity ought to live. For me this begins with praise for the God of justice and peace:

 ‘Let the rivers clap their hands and the hills ring out their joy at the presence of the Lord…. He will rule the world with justice.’ (Psalm 97)

 

Both tatty booklets will stay, side by side, on my desk.

 

Bruce Kent is a vice-president of both Pax Christi and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.